Praying Mantis

Mantis are insects that cover over 2400 species in 430 genera in 30 families. They come in order of Mantodea. It is by far the largest family of mantises or Mantidae. Because they are huge in number, they are distributed worldwide in temperate and tropical habitats.


Talking about their appearance, they have a triangular head and a bulging set of eyes. A flexible neck. Their long bodies may sometimes have wings or may not have wings. The common in all praying mantis is they have a huge set of forelegs. It is adaptable in a situation of catching and gripping prey. Their upright position, where they remain stationary with hands folded leads them to the praying mantis position.


The closest relative of the mantis is the termites and cockroaches. The scientific name given to cockroaches is Blattodea. They are all within the superorder Dictyoptera. Praying mantises are usually confused with stick insects, grasshoppers, or other related insects with raptorial coming under the family of orthoptera. They are also confused with insects with raptorial forelegs. Example being mantis flies ( Mantispidae )


Mantises usually ambushed predators. A few of them can come under the category of ground-dwelling species that actively pursue their prey. They live for about a year. The adults lay eggs in the autumn season and eventually die. Their eggs are self-protected by the hard capsules and hatch in the spring season. Females sometimes practice sexual cannibalism, that is eating their mates after copulation. This trait is present in the mantis family maybe because of their sexual disagreement. 


By ancient Greece praying mantis was considered to have some supernatural powers. This was not only confined to Greece but also to ancient Egypt and Assyria.

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Evolution of Mantis Insect

2400 species of mantis insect in about 430 genera are recognized. They are found in tropical regions whereas some live in temperate regions. Their study of the diversification of living forms has long been disputed. This praying mantis was once placed in the order Orthoptera with cockroaches and rock crawlers. Now they’re known as Grylloblattodea. The Mantids were combined with the termites and cockroaches to get into the order Dictyoptera. The order is usually called mantes. Here, praying mantis was applied to any species in the order.


The praying mantis information includes the reason behind their name. They were named praying mantis because of their forelimb folded position. The family Mantidae was further split in 2002. 


One of the earliest classifications of splitting all Mantidae into multiple families was then proposed by Beier in 1968. A total of eight families were recognized. Later it was Ehrmann’s reclassification into 15 families in the year 2002. The multiple family classification became uniformly and universally adopted. The external male genitalia was studied by Klass and he postulated that the families both diverged from the other families. It was proposed in the year 1997. 


Previously configured that Mantidae and Thespidae were both considered polyphyletic. The mantodea has been revised substantially as of 2019 and now includes 29 families.


Fossil Mantises

The earliest mantid fossils that are discovered are about 140 million years old. They were from Siberia. Fossils of the groups are very rare. Only 25% of fossil species were known by the year 2007. A fossil was found years ago including one from Japan. It was found with spines on the front legs. This evolution is still found in present Mantids. They have been found in Cretaceous amber. Most of the fossils in amber are nymphs and compression fossils in rock include adults.


Fossil mantises from Crato Formation in Brazil include the 10 mm long Santanmantis axelrodi. Described in 2003. The front legs of modern mantids were evolved for catching prey. Some of the extinct families and genera of praying mantis include the following:

  1. Baissomantidae

  2. Gryllomantidae

  3. Cretomantidae

  4. Santa Mantidae

  5. Incertae sedis:

  • Jersimantis

  • Chaeteessites

  • Cretophotina

  • Ambermantis

Mantis has superficially similar raptorial forelegs. Because of this, they are many times confused with Mantidflies. Their similarity is basically an example of convergent evolution. Mantidflies do not have leathery forewings or also known as tegmina. Their antenna is shorter and less thread-like. They bend backward in preparation for shooting out to grasp prey.


Biological Factors of Praying Mantis Insect

Talking about their appearance, Mantis have long, large triangular heads with a beak-like snout and mandibles. They have bulbous compound eyes and three small simple eyes. They possess a pair of antennae. The articulation of the neck is remarkably flexible. Some of the species of Mantis can rotate their heads nearly to 180 degrees. This is to easily grab a view of their prey. The prothorax, the mesothorax, and the metathorax are all parts of a mantid thorax.


In all species apart from Genus Mantoida. Their head and legs are much longer than the two thoracic segments. The prothorax is articulated flexibly which allows a wide range of movements of the head and forelimbs. The other remainder of the body remains more or less mobile. 


Mantises are unique to the Dictyoptera where they have tympanic hearing, with two tympana in the auditory chamber in metathorax. Most of the mantises can only hear ultrasounds.


Mantis insects have two spiked grasping forelegs typically designed for holding their prey. The preys are caught in a secure position this way leaving no room for setting them free. This way they are held securely. In most Mantis insect legs, including the posterior four legs of a mantis, the coxa and trochanter both combine as a base of the leg. 


In raptorial legs, the coxa and the trochanter combine to form a segment as long as a femur. It is the spiky part of the grasping apparatus. At the very base of the femur is a set of discoidal spines. They are usually four in number but depending upon the species and their evolution. It ranges from none to even five sometimes. The spines are present with a number of tooth-like tubercles along with a tibia and apical claw near its tip. This setup gives the foreleg of the Mantis a grasp on its prey. 


The foreleg of the insect ends in a delicate tarsus used as a walking apparatus. It is made up of four or five segments ending in a two-toed claw. 


Praying mantis information collects that they are loosely categorized as being macropterous that is long-winged, micropterus that is vestigial winged, brachypterous that is short-winged, and apterous that is wingless. If not considered wingless, they have two sets of wings. The outer wings, namely tegmina, are usually narrow and have leathery texture. Their main function is they camouflage and also act as a shield for the hindwings. These hindwings are clearer and more delicate. The abdomen of all mantids consists of ten tergites. It is present with a corresponding set of nine sternites which are visible in males and seven in females. The abdomen of both sexes tends to be similar but ends in a pair of cerci.


Vision

Talking about the mantises' vision, they have a stereo vision. They are pretty good at locating their prey by sight. Their compound eye contains up to 10000 ommatidia. The small area at the front which is called the fovea has a greater visual capacity than the rest of the eye. It can also produce a high resolution which is necessary to examine the potential prey coming forth. When the moving object is noticed, the head immediately is rotated to bring an object into the visual field. Coming forth movements of the prey are then tracked by the movements of the mantis head. This is done to keep the image centered on the fovea. 


The eyes are widely spaced and situated laterally. This makes a clear binocular field of vision. It gives precise stereoscopic vision at a close range. The dark spot seen on each eye that moves as it rotates its head is called a pseudo pupil. This happens due to the absorption of the incident rays and those to the sides reflect it. 


Their hunting heavily relies on vision, Mantises are primarily diurnal. Many species fly at night and are attracted to artificial lights. Mantises in the night collected are predominately shown as males. This happens as the nocturnal flight is especially important to males by locating less mobile females by detecting pheromones. Flying during the nighttime exposes mantis to few bird predators. Many mantises also have an auditory thoracic organ that helps them avoid bats. They do so by detecting their echolocation calls and responding evasively. 


Praying Mantis Information (Diet and Hunting)

Mantises are generalist predators of the arthropods family. The majority of mantis are ambush predators that only feed upon live prey that are within their reach. They do so by either camouflaging themselves and remain stationary. They wait for their prey to approach and also stalk their prey sometimes with slow and stealthy movements. Larger mantises sometimes eat smaller individuals from their own species and may also eat small vertebrates such as lizards, frogs, fish, and small birds. 


Most of the mantises stalk and wait for the prey to approach. If they are hungry enough, they will go further. When within reach, mantises strike rapidly to grasp their prey with spiked raptorial forelegs. 

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. What is Mantis?

Ans. A mantid also called a mantis is approximately 2000 species of large, slow-moving insects. They are characterized by enlarged femurs with front legs. They have a groove with lined-up spines into which the lower portion presses. They usually feed on living insects using their spined front legs. They seize their prey in a viselike grip. 


They are usually found among vegetation, do not roam on ground. On camouflage, they resemble green or brown foliage, a dried leaf, slender, a lichen or twig, a brightly colored flower, or an ant sometimes. The female usually eats the male after mating and lays 200 eggs in a large cocoon-like capsule. The cocoon protects the egg from harsh climatic conditions.

Q2. There are How Many Types of Mantis Present?

Ans. A mantid or commonly known as a praying mantis. They get their name because they have long front legs which they hold in a position that reminds people of praying. The praying mantis scientific name is Mantis religiosa and belongs to the invertebrate type. They have a carnivore diet and have an average life span of 1 year. They may vary from .5 to 6 inches long in size. There are about 2000 species of mantid circling the world. They eat mainly insects and other smaller groups of animals. Gardeners and farmers welcome mantid. This is because the insect they eat is often pests that harm the crops. In addition to insects like grasshoppers and crickets, spiders, frogs, lizards, and small birds are also included in their diet.

Q3. What is Sexual Cannibalism?

Ans. Sexual cannibalism is a common activity in most predatory species of mantises. It has been observed in the natural population of mantises. About a quarter of male-female encounters result in a male being eaten by the female. Approximately around 90% of the predatory species of mantid exhibit sexual cannibalism. Adult males outnumber females initially. Their numbers are fairly equivalent later in the adult stage. It is possible because females selectively eat the smaller males.


In tenodera sinensis, around 83% of males escape cannibalism after an encounter with the female. The probability of males being eaten is high because multiple mating occurs.


The female begins feeding by biting off the head, they do this in their regular prey hunting as well. If the mating has begun, the male’s movements become rigorous due to the transmission of sperm in the activity. 


The male in the mantid group engages the female in a courtship dance. This changes the female’s interest from feeding to mating. Under these circumstances, the female has been known to show a defensive display. They do so by flashing the colored eyespots on the inside of the front legs. During the mantid mating process, males make up as much as 63% of a female’s diet.